Warning: Get to the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse early. Pick up your program immediately and turn to page P7, sit down and read. If you prefer more extensive research pick-up your copy of Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes. Encapsulated: Oedipus’ sons kick him out, decide to rule Thebes with the eldest running the show for the first year and his younger brother taking it for the next year. Things don’t work out.
The Seven, based on Aeschylus’ tale, was adapted by Will Power. He also did the original music with Will Hammond and Justin Ellington. Bill T. Jones is responsible for the exciting choreography and Jo Bonney directed the talented cast.
Turning a classic tale of sibling rivalry, and much more, into a hip-hop production may sound ridiculous. It isn’t! A DJ (Chinasa Ogbuagu) spins the discs and the action begins. Some of the action is a projection of a spinning record with a voice-over (Charles Turner) relating a free translation of Aeschylus’ tale. This easily slides into stage action with Oedipus (Edwin Lee Turner) setting the scene, aided by his Right Hand (Bernard White). Soon the older brother, Polynices (Jamyl Dobson) and the younger brother, Eteocles (Benton Green), remove dad and command the kingdom, each ruling for one year starting with Polynices. Alas, when it is Eteocles time, he is happily ensconced with Tydeus (Flaco Navaja) in the forest.
Thus, the seven, played by Uzo Aduba, Dashiell Eaves, Shaneeka Harrell, Postell Pringle, Pearl Sun, and Eteocles and Tydeus, with their armies storm Thebes. They are met with failure. The brothers fight to death and the cycle of their father’s curse upon continues to the next generation.
This is done through lyrical poetry and song, often accompanied by stylized contemporary street dance. The whole interpretation works. The driving rhythms. The extreme dances. The lyrics are almost classical in nature. The dialog makes occasional references to contemporaries that seem to fit the classical theme. The Seven is an interesting piece. Like La Jolla Playhouse’s production of Carmen, purists will probably cringe. However, bringing Seven Against Thebes into a contemporary setting works . . . and it works well.
The lighting, the projections, and the sound were excellent and formed an integral part of the production. Costuming was strictly high “street” fashion. I hope you enjoy the production.
Uzo Aduba, Jamyl Dobson, Dashiell Eaves, Edwin Lee Gibson, Benton Greene, Shaneeka Harrell, Flaco Navaja, Chinasa Ogbuagu, Postell Pringle, Pearl Sun, Charles Turner, Bernard White
Musical Director Daryl Waters, Scenic Designer Richard Hoover, Lighting Designer David Weiner, Sound Designer Darron L. West, Projection Designer Robin Silvestri, Music Producer Justin Ellington, SM Wendy Quellette, Asst SM Anjee Nero, Assoc Prod Dana I. Harrel, Prod Mgr Peter J. Davis, AD Sarah Rasmussen, Asst Choreographer Shaneeka Harrell, Assoc LD Lauren Phillips, Assoc SD Matt Hubbs, Assoc Proj D Shawn Sagady
Total Rating: Three Stars
Genre: Musical Drama
Author: Book & Lyrics Will Power; Music Will Power, Will Hammond, Justin Ellington; Choreography Bill T. Jones
Director & Developer: Jo Bonney
Date Reviewed: February 17, 2008
Dates: Tuesdays thru Sundays, thru March 16, 2008
Running Time: 110 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Caution Guidance Adult Language
Theater Company: New York Theatre Workshop
La Jolla Playhouse
Mandell Weiss Theatre, UCSD Campus
La Jolla, CA 92037
Box Office Phone 858 550-1010